Subcommittee Examines FCC’s Implementation of New Spectrum Law

December 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today held a hearing with all five commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to discuss “Keeping the New Broadband Spectrum Law on Track.” Members discussed whether the FCC’s implementation of broadcast incentive auctions, authorized in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, is taking place within the confines of the law and examined the agency’s efforts to maximize the efficiency and use of allocated and auctioned spectrum. Walden presented a chart indicating that the FCC’s current proposal may forgo as much as $19.2 billion in revenue, something that neither First Responders nor the nation can afford.

“The U.S. has long led the world in spectrum auctions with an auction model based on the elegant simplicity of one core concept: markets, not the whims of regulators, are best suited to ensure that spectrum is put to productive and innovative use,” said Walden. “The FCC must avoid overly prescriptive auction rules and instead rely on market mechanisms that have a proven track record of success. Remember, the revenue generated, which was used in part to help pay for the middle class tax cut and extension of unemployment benefits, will also be used to help pay for the interoperable public safety broadband network under FirstNet, to fund next generation 9-1-1 service and to invest in public safety research and development. A broadcast incentive auction that fails to raise the revenue needed for these projects, or that unnecessarily gives away billions in cleared spectrum, is a failure.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in September that establishes a framework for the auctions and sets a general timetable for public comments.

Commissioner Robert McDowell echoed the need to prioritize spectrum efficiency, saying, “I share your goals of putting more spectrum in the hands of American consumers, and raising funds for the treasury and a nationwide broadband public safety network… The FCC should approach these auctions with simplicity, humility, and regulatory restraint.”

Commissioner Ajit Pai added, “The broadcast incentive auction is our best opportunity to push a large amount of spectrum well-suited for mobile broadband into the commercial marketplace. Given the importance of constructing an interoperable public safety network, as well as the need to reduce the deficit and fund next-generation 9-1-1, I believe the FCC must seek to maximize the net revenues obtained through the commercial broadcast incentive auction.”

Chairman Walden concluded, “Finally, let me make it clear, I support the use of unlicensed spectrum to foster innovation and provide much needed offload for congested mobile broadband networks. That’s why our bill expands the amount of unlicensed spectrum by identifying an additional 195 MHz in the 5 GHz band, frequencies ideal for this kind of use. It also codifies the use of white spaces. What I cannot support is the unnecessary expansion of unlicensed spectrum in other bands needed for licensed services, especially at the expense of funding for public safety.”